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Last Updated: Friday, 14 October 2005, 06:23 GMT 07:23 UK
Display marks desert hero's death
Lawrence at Rabegh, north of Jidda, 1917
The world came to know 'Ned' as the officer, Lawrence of Arabia
An exhibition on the life of Lawrence of Arabia, who was born in north Wales, is opening at the Imperial War Museum.

The display explores his early years - he lived in Gwynedd in a house that is still there - as well as his work in the Middle East during World War I.

It includes a map T E Lawrence drew up for his vision of how the Allied powers should have redrawn the area's borders.

This year is the 70th anniversary of the death of the romantic desert hero, who was killed in a motorbike accident.

In August, a party to celebrate Lawrence's 115th birthday was held at his Welsh birthplace, which is now a cafe.

Thomas Edward Lawrence was the second of five illegitimate sons of an Anglo-Irish landowner, Thomas Robert Tighe Chapman.

His mother, Sarah, had been governess to Chapman's four legitimate daughters. After the birth of their first child the liaison was discovered and the couple fled from Ireland.

Cafe Lawrence, Tremadog
Lawrence was born in this house, which is now Café Lawrence

Under the alias of Mr and Mrs T R Lawrence, they first went to Wales where Lawrence was born in Tremadog, Gwynedd in 1888.

Although he left Wales at a very young age, it was reported that Lawrence once said he was "born a Welshman and would die a Welshman".

The Imperial War Museum exhibition explores how his illegitimacy troubled him all his life, even though he claimed he knew about his parent's secret from the age of 10.

Although he was known as "Ned" as a boy, the world came to know him as Lawrence of Arabia, the British liaison officer who led the Arab revolt against the Turks during World War 1.

Col T E Lawrence,1919, by Augustus John
Lawrence tried to escape the fame heaped on him for his exploits

His exploits, as described in his book, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, inspired the 1962 movie Lawrence of Arabia, starring Peter O'Toole.

Lawrence at first used his celebrity status to publicise the Arab cause and to attack western policy, but he soon came to despise it. He joined the RAF to escape the public eye but was tracked down by the media.

He died in a road accident in 1935 near his cottage in Dorset while riding his beloved Brough Superior SS100 motorcycle. That particular machine will be among the exhibits.

A spokeswoman for the museum said the exhibition would include a wide range of original material, including letters, diaries, his Arab robes, photographs, film, paintings and memorabilia.

She described Lawrence as "one of the most famous British icons of the 20th Century.

"His life and career continue to have an enduring fascination, with a significant resurgence of interest as a result of the current conflict in Iraq," she said.

The exhibition will run from 14 October to 17 April 2006

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